Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (NIV)
There was, apparently, an art exhibition a few years ago in the USA whose objective was to find the work of art that most expressed peace. It was narrowed down to two paintings. One depicted a calm lake surrounded by lush vegetation: a picture of stillness. The other was a painting of a raging waterfall thundering over a precipice. Behind that waterfall, sporadically drenched by it, was a forlorn tree rooted to the cliff face. A tiny bird settled on its nest in the elbow of one its branches. That was the winner.
Jesus promises peace, but not the common or garden variety peace. He doesn’t promise constant tranquility or serenity. Nor is his peace a mere interval between outbreaks of formally declared war, which is how the world sees peace. His peace isn’t some sort of frantic burial of unpleasant reality or denial of hard facts. Jesus’ isn’t confusing peace with happiness either.
His sort of peace can be experienced when everything round about is anything but peaceful. It is a settled realization that all is well and all will be well. Not by virtue of wishful thinking or favourable circumstances. Rather by virtue of the powerful presence of God’s Spirit reminding us that the faithful love of God is the final reality, not our immediate circumstances. It is the human equivalent of that tiny bird in the seemingly precarious tree, secure in the midst of all sorts of noise and tumult.
It is a peace that doesn’t come from the absence of danger but from the presence of God himself. It is the peace you can have when things are not at all peaceful.